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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Time to put an end to the IPCC

Q: Recently, a U.N. scientific report was found to have included a false conclusion about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. That followed the release of stolen e-mails last year, which showed climate scientists commiserating over problems with their data. Is there a broader meaning in these two incidents, and should they cause the public to be more skeptical about the underlying science of climate change?

The time has come to close the book on the IPCC and say Rest In Peace. It has become a tool for affirmation of climate orthodoxy instead of a vehicle to assess reality. Touted as a gold standard for scientific assessment it is anything but. Reality falls far short of its self-promoting image.

The IPCC was created in 1988 and given 18 months to produce an assessment of the state of knowledge about climate change. Since the first assessment it has taken on a life of its own. Like many organizations its primary objective became self perpetuation and over 20 years it has provided global venues for participants to meet and opportunities for self enrichment.

Although it represents itself as representing the views of over 2000 scientists, that claim is mainly a fiction. IPCC output is tightly controlled by a small group of scientists who represent their governments as well as their self interest. Since the work of lead authors is time consuming and teams have to be geographically balanced many of the world's best scientists will not volunteer to be authors or reviewers. Although the assessment reports have generally been viewed reasonably accurate summaries of the state of knowledge, what gets the most attention are the Summaries for Policy Makers, which are approved word for word by more than 100 governments. The National Academies of Science has criticized these summaries for their failure to adequately reflect uncertainties.

Criticism of the way the IPCC operates has been building for some time. In 1997, a chapter author changed an important paragraph about human influence after the chapter had been approved. The change replaced uncertainty about the extent of human influence on the climate system with a meaningless statement about discernible influence. Then there was the infamous "hockey stick" sham which was shown to be an artifact of data manipulation. Now we have climategate, a bogus document about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers and allegations of conflict of interest.

In conducting an independent review of the Hockey Stick analysis, Professor Wegman of George Mason University discovered an unseemly social network of scientists who shared common beliefs, reviewed each others work, and promoted visions of climate apocalypse based on their ideological beliefs instead of empirical facts. This was a microcosm of the IPCC operations.

The IPCC is a classic example of the social phenomenon that Irving Janis documented in his book Group Think. Janis defined Group Think as "the psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses disagreement and prevents the appraisal of alternatives in cohesive decision-making groups". Added to this condition are the billions of dollars that are spent supporting the climate change research enterprise. Favored scientists receive large grants from host governments to provide research documentation that provides support for centrally imposed actions to reduce emissions. This also is a classic affirmation of the Bootlegger and Baptist theory of public choice.

It is doubtful that the IPCC can be rehabilitated because those who benefit from its activities -- governments and scientists -- will make preservation the equivalent of the mother of all wars.

By William O'Keefe  |  January 27, 2010; 7:02 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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My main beef is with this newspaper. They have a responsibility to accurately inform the public. And on the issue of climate science they have failed miserably. By allowing George Will to continually mislead and lie in his columns, Sarah Palin to publish her rubbish in editorials, and people with flagrant conflicts of interest to sit on these panels, the editors of the Washington Post have embarrassed themselves and their profession.
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dominion3 is correct for you are committing the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, by attacking the writer personally rather than his views.

I happen to read both conservative and liberal writers on this site, and I can assure you they both mislead, omit, and outright lie at times.

I think your real beef is that the Washington post presents opinions that you disagree with or feel are false.

Posted by: moebius22 | January 31, 2010 10:45 PM
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Charles Darwin is a Theologian and Dawkins is a zoologist. Clearly these people have no actual background with regards to pure science unlike engineers who deal with pure science.

Like global warming, Darwinian Evolution is a sham.

I am an engineer and I can prove that what happened with that gargantuan iceberg chunk separating can be replicated in the lab.

The phenomenon means that what we have is a dip of temperature in Antartica.

I don't want to explain it here. I want the idiotic "scientists" to think for themselves why it happened.

POSTED BY: SPIDERMEAN2 | JANUARY 29, 2010 9:45 AM

___________

Evolution is the best theory to explain biology. Through an evolutionary lens passes light that permits the conquest of drug resistant bacteria and the understanding, and possibly cure, of manifold human diseases. Sans evolutionary theory, the bacteria will win.

Posted by: Martial | January 31, 2010 8:34 PM
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There's a reason why this entire section is featured by WAPO under a Climate Agenda banner... as it turns out, there's roughly 96% agenda and <4% Science involved in most of their coverage of this manufactured topic. Any difference that doesn't add up to 100% can be directly attributed to various forms of scamology, hoaxification, scarology, and perhaps a tad of well-intentioned but misguided activism... I'll close with a timely weather (not climate) -related observation... perhaps we should all 'chill out' and get some solid, dependable, reliable facts before we make decisions we can't base on trustworthy science or by applying knowledge that emerges from a practical and honest application of the Scientific Method.

Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | January 31, 2010 7:00 PM
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Here are a Few of the MANY Scientists Who Believe Global Warming is Primarily Caused by Natural Processes and NOT because of Greenhouse gases!

- William M. Gray, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University [1] [2]

- Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology, Western Washington University [1]

- Khabibullo Abdusamatov, mathematician and astronomer at Pulkovskaya Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences [1]

- Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia [1] [2]

- Frederick Seitz, retired, former solid-state physicist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences [1]

- Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- George V. Chilingar, Professor of Civil and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California [1]

- Ian Clark, hydrogeologist, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa [1]

- Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [1]

I will listen to these guys instead of Al Gore who thinks the “Earth’s core temperature is several millions of degrees”.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | January 31, 2010 3:15 PM
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The “warmers” attack Mr. O'Keefe for not being a Climate scientist, but I guarantee you Mr. O'Keefe has more integrity then any of the scientist at the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University. What is so great about the e-mails is that it’s their OWN WORDS which condemns their research. For example:


Jones e-mail of 2 Feb 2005
A 2 February 2005 email from Phil Jones to Michael Mann includes:

"And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days?—our does! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."


Why would any credible scientist be afraid of the Freedom of Information act? This isn’t a conspiracy, this is CRIMINAL activity. Wake up America! Green is the new Color of Socialism. Green Politicians like Al Gore and John Kerry don’t care about the environment. It has been proven that Al Gore will make Billions if Cap and Trade passes Congress (which it won’t). Doesn’t that sound like a conflict of interest? This is about wealth re-distribution. They want to take American money and give it to 3rd world Communist countries to help fight this scam. Trust the U.N. anybody? Remember oil for food? Wikipedia it if you don’t know what happened.


The warmers want to make this a conflict between Democrats and Republicans because they know that the Dem’s will follow them right off the cliff. The sad part is that after all the dominoes fall; The Enviro-fanatics will just find another scam to throw at the American people and the rest of the world.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | January 31, 2010 3:11 PM
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dominion3,

I disagree. I think this is exactly the place for such a discussion. Previously William O’Keefe represented the largest petroleum trade association in the country. The oil industry has billions of dollars at stake in discrediting the scientific conclusions of climate science. A largely decarbonized economy is a direct threat to their existence. To say these facts don’t matter is absolute nonsense. It would be like saying that the opinions of the former head of the Tobacco Manufacturer’s Association should be given as much credibility as legitimate cancer scientists.

But my argument isn’t primarily with O’Keefe. He has clear financial and ideological reasons for attempting to discredit the science. In fact, his motivations are quite logical in the abstract. The fact that his relentless lobbying may help destabilize the climate and cause real suffering for current and future generations doesn’t seem to bother him greatly. But after all, he has powerful interests to protect.

My main beef is with this newspaper. They have a responsibility to accurately inform the public. And on the issue of climate science they have failed miserably. By allowing George Will to continually mislead and lie in his columns, Sarah Palin to publish her rubbish in editorials, and people with flagrant conflicts of interest to sit on these panels, the editors of the Washington Post have embarrassed themselves and their profession.

Posted by: orteleus | January 31, 2010 2:48 PM
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This not the place for a point by point rebuttal of some of the comments attempting to discredit my posting based where I use to work or activities involving the climate change debate. That is an old political trick. If you can't discredit the message, attempt to discredit the messenger.

Almost 20 years ago, Ted Koppel criticized Al Gore for attempting the same thing. He said, it is not the politics of the scientist or who they associate with that counts, it is submitting hypothesis to the acid bath of truth. My former position at the American Petroleum Institute is irrelevant, what is relevant is whether my views about the IPCC are valid?
The fact that scientists from over 100 countries control the SPM does not make it a consensus. The participating countries have poltical reasons for promoting the view that there is an impending climate catastrophe sometime later this century. The fact is that the SPM does not represent the views of over 2000 climate scientists.

Posted by: dominion3 | January 31, 2010 12:49 PM
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Just a further clarification of Mr. O'Keefe's allegiences from http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=289 which says in part "According to federal lobbying records, O'Keefe was a paid lobbyist for ExxonMobil, 2001-2005 on the issues of environment and climate change..." This doesn't mean he's wrong, of course, but I think does lend some additional perspective to his ... perspectives.

Posted by: jlibertelli | January 31, 2010 9:59 AM
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Emmaliza,

I decided to take your advice and "check the facts"

Here is one that I came up with in just a few seconds: oil companies reluctant to adapt clean energy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/energy-environment/08greenoil.html

And then of course there is this fact:

A fossil fuel front group ran a huge PR campaign to deny the link between human produced greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. And then later that industry front group buried the findings of their own scientists. Findings which stated that human caused global warming is real and happening.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/science/earth/24deny.html

And that same fossil fuel industry has provided enormous financial resources to fund the work of think tanks like the George C. Marshall Institute and the Heritage Foundation (fact), both of which have graciously offered the Planet Panel the services of two of their scholars (fact), who will undoubtedly provide their unbiased opinion on the issue of climate science. Of course neither of them are actually scientists. But no matter. The Washington Post editors have decided they are trustworthy. (that is neither fact or opinion, Emmaliza, but bitter sarcasm)


Posted by: orteleus | January 30, 2010 10:33 PM
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Thanks for this insightful article. To those of us who have followed the unraveling of the scam promoted by Al Gore and dreamed up by Enron applaud you.

To those comments re petroleum, check the facts before blasting at the author. The petroleum companies have invested heavily in green technology and funded the research institutes now in disrepute.

Unlike radical environmentalists, energy companies live in the real world and have to make responsible decisions based on laws and taxes, as well as the environment. We owe them our affordable electricity, gasoline, diesel. If we look at alternatives to fossil fuel, we see a 30-year proven world reserve of uranium, a very scarce reserve of lithium, non-constant solar (sun doesn't shine at night) and wind (the wind did not blow in England during their record blizzard recently), and ethanol that takes more energy to produce than it offers.

Have reason and logic departed from American's mind-sets? Do we really want to go back to the 19th century?

Posted by: emmaliza | January 30, 2010 8:11 PM
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Now it appears the glacier evidence is from a graduate students dissertation and the head of the IPCC knew about the numbers of years being wrong. That plus the evidence from the email controversy indicates that the scientists are less than truthful. The public will only by the evidence if it is throughly vetted and not by the current scientists.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | January 30, 2010 7:58 PM
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Are you kidding me? O'Keefe is the former CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. This newspaper allows the former top executive of the largest oil advocacy group in America act as a panelist on the issue of climate change.

Message to the Washington Post editorial staff: You should be ashamed of yourselves. Truly ashamed. Think back to the ideals you held as a young reporter. Then compare those ideals to what you have become today. Then try to look at yourself in the mirror. I dare you.

Posted by: orteleus | January 30, 2010 7:15 PM
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It is interesting to read O'Keefe's conspiracy theory. He starts with the statement that the IPCC report is the work of just a few of the 2000 scientists it claims to represent. But then he precedes to explain they represent the views of "more than 100 governments". These 10s of thousands of people are hiding the truth from us. I would take this to be just an example of normal run of the mill delusions, except the he was the COO of the American Petroleum Institute.

Posted by: alanshapiro | January 30, 2010 4:40 PM
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As is true with any technical field, be it engineering, veterinary science, or physics, the public, including me, lacks knowledge sufficient tender reasoned opinions concerning climatology. What can be done, should suspicion of ethical compromise exist, is to fund scientists opposed to the concept of global warming, such that they might present evidence before an unbiased jury of their peers.

Having said that, it seems that Summers are getting no hotter and Winters getting colder as the years pass. Climatologists would be wise to explain how this is so to better inform the public.

Posted by: Martial | January 30, 2010 1:38 PM
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The IPCC made a claim,
But the science behind it was lame.
And as hard as they tried
Their poor work was "denied"
By reality. Ain't it a shame.

Posted by: RobertAJonesJr | January 30, 2010 12:17 PM
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spidermean lives! You are so right. Who could possibly understand the science behind biological evolution or climate change better than a half-literate engineer. Keep it up, little buddy. You present a brilliant caricature of your position.

Posted by: jyhume | January 30, 2010 10:00 AM
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Charles Darwin is a Theologian and Dawkins is a zoologist. Clearly these people have no actual background with regards to pure science unlike engineers who deal with pure science.

Like global warming, Darwinian Evolution is a sham.

I am an engineer and I can prove that what happened with that gargantuan iceberg chunk separating can be replicated in the lab.

The phenomenon means that what we have is a dip of temperature in Antartica.

I don't want to explain it here. I want the idiotic "scientists" to think for themselves why it happened.

Posted by: spidermean2 | January 29, 2010 9:45 AM
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"Climate scientist are all idiots because they all believe in Darwinian Evolution. They are jumping from one idiocy to another."

Just wow! You really nailed it there! This might be the best example of jumping from one idiocy (climate change denial) to another (creationism) that I have ever seen.

Congratulations. You win the internet bozo award of the month, at least.

Posted by: DaveR1 | January 29, 2010 9:20 AM
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What happened in Antartica when a big chunk of ice floated towards Australia is a clear indication that there is no global warming. The phenomenon means that what we have is a dip of temperature in Antartica. If it becomes a trend, we would experience a colder climate.

Climate scientist are all idiots because they all believe in Darwinian Evolution. They are jumping from one idiocy to another.

" The fool had said in his heart that there is no God".

What a bunch of fools.

Posted by: spidermean2 | January 29, 2010 8:49 AM
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The hockey stick was investigated by a panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences. They found no evidence that it was a sham. They found it had too little data before 1600 to be reliable, but found it reliable for the last 400 years. They did not find the result before 1600 to be reliable.

Climategate revealed scientists refusing to share data and being quite harsh on research they believed wrong and disagreed with. The first is clearly wrong; the second is human nature and wrong as well.

It is also wrong to steal and publish people's private emails, to take phrases out of context and give them the worst possible interpretation, to ignore totally the quite reasonable explanations presented by the scientists, and to declare again and again with no evidence that global warming is a hoax.

Who would benefit from stopping action to curb global warming by reducing our use of carbon-based fuels? Do they not have a reason to oppose the idea of global warming
and to refuse to accept evidence for it? They have trillions at stake, not mere billions.

Seems like the pot calling the kettle black.

There is a need for both sides to be objective and admit uncertainties. So many people who argue against the idea of global warming are absolutely certain it doesn't exist. There is also clearly a need for much better science education and news.

Posted by: Dadmeister | January 28, 2010 1:33 PM
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The fundamental problem with the 'Climate Debate' and the IPCC is in it's failure to educate on 'natural variation'.

To say that 'Global Warming' is occurring is true, 'Global Warming' also occurred in the 1930's.

To say 'The Glaciers are melting' is true, they've been melting for 10,000 years.

To say 'Oceans are rising' is true, they've been rising for 10,000 years.

To say CO2 affects climate is true.

The question is, whether CO2 is effecting climate in an 'unprecedented way'.

The difference between the US temperature in 1934 and 1998 was less then the margin of error in a thermometer.

If one tortures a criminal suspect long enough it will eventually confess to any crime.

One doesn't have to look far to see 'the data' is being tortured by the IPCC and others. The 'official' 1934 temperature for the United States has changed as least 16 times in the last 20 years.

Posted by: SoldiersDad | January 28, 2010 1:24 PM
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